Inspectors failed to identify Diablo Canyon safety breach

March 29, 2022

By JOSH FRIEDMAN

An investigation conducted by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Office of the Inspector General has found NRC inspectors failed to identify a safety system malfunction at the Diablo Canyon power plant in San Luis Obispo County in 2020, which prompted a brief shutdown of one of the plant’s reactors.

NRC inspectors also broke protocols when inspecting the nuclear plant prior to the system failure, according to an inspector general’s report.

Over the last few years, the Office of the Inspector General has received several complaints about the NRC’s oversight of safety-related structures, systems and components, including the auxiliary feedwater system. The auxiliary feedwater (AFW) system serves as a backup water supply that can be used to cool a reactor if if normal feedwater is out of service.

In July 2020, an AFW system failure occurred that required Diablo Canyon’s Unit 2 reactor to shut down for eight days. In response, the inspector general conducted an investigation into the adequacy of the NRC’s inspection of the AFW system prior to the incident.

The investigation found that, during inspections, the NRC failed to identify long-degraded piping insulation. The degradation led to a leak in the Unit 2 AFW system piping. The leak required the shutdown of the reactor.

Prior to the system failure, the NRC conducted AFW system inspections in January and April 2020, as well as weekly plant status inspections. At no point during that period did the NRC report finding defects in safety systems at Diablo Canyon.

The NRC did not inspect the location where the leak occurred, even though its inspection report indicated inspectors had conducted a complete walk down of the AFW system in April 2020. A complete walk down is a physical inspection that verifies a system is aligned correctly and able to perform its safety function.

Existing regulations recommended that NRC staff spend a combined total of 12 hours inspecting both reactors at Diablo Canyon. However, the April 2020 inspection only lasted five hours. Officials acknowledged the inspection was inadequate, according to the inspector general’s report.

The inspector general’s office now recommends the NRC determine whether inspectors are trained to identify corrosion under insulation and that insulation does not unnecessarily limit their ability to identify such corrosion. Likewise, the inspector general recommends the NRC consider whether its inspection procedures are clear and adequate enough, particularly in dealing with both single-reactor and multiple-reactor plants.


Loading...

7
Leave a Reply

Please Login to comment
ryan.pickering

I am disappointed that Congressman Carbajal and Cal Coast News are spreading nuclear fear amongst our community over a non-issue. This never impacted the safety of the plant.


This plant has served California admirably and does not deserve this smear campaign.


I hope that Cal Coast will write soon in favor of extending the life of this fantastic powerplant.


jdchem

Lighten up, Francis. Everyone is trying to do what they think is best.


unusualsuspect

It’s that attitude that leads to these issues :/ DO BETTER


jdchem

I was replying to Kevin but inadvertently posted instead of replying. You are right, folks should do better than their best.


kevin rise

Huh, safe energy? Neither PGE or the NRC can manage Fukushima #2, essentially the world’s oldest and most dangerous nuclear power plant. 40 mile evacuation zone if it fails. Hm. Basic redundant systems were failing, and yet you have people trying to defend this plant with eyes of political ideology. Nuclear can be safe and amazing, this is not it nor has it been for over 20 years. It’s antiquated, dangerous and about to fail. No matter what, that sight will continue to store all of its old, insanely dangerous over made radioactive rods in pools up on a hill, which systems just inspected, are failing. Hm. Devil’s canyon is right. Satan alley. This is a living hell in every regard. Heat included.


username1

If you are going to comment, try to use at least one accurate fact. Not sure how it is about to fail, it has produced at least 10% of California’s power for 40 years with zero carbon emissions, and a football field size concrete pad that holds all the waste safely, seems like a pretty good way to make energy.


Messkit

I don’t know what “over made radioactive rods” are, but they are not stored in a pool. They are dry cask stored, in an over-built concrete shelter, rated for the worst the Hosgri could dish up. The only “pools” on site, are the back-up cooling ponds, for which the piping had some bad insulation 2 years ago. Neither of these has anything to do with the plant itself, that has been operating quite safely all this time.


Hardly “antiquated”, as it is still considered somewhat state of the art, and always being updated. Diablo, is neither designed nor built anything like the Fukushima plant. The only commonality, is they use nuclear energy.